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Togo, Willow River prisons remain open; new bill brings hope to expand

TOGO, MN--Togo and Willow River state prisons will remain open after a budget deficit puts them in danger of closing.

"Right now, the Department of Corrections has no intentions of shutting down either Willow River or Togo, which I am very thankful for," said District 3A State Representative Rob Ecklund.

The locations won't be closing due to the DOC's proposed budget being passed in the fall of 2020, saving not just the prisons but the Challenge Incarceration Program helping people bounce back from convictions.

"It's really good, both in Togo and at Willow River. And it needs to be supported in the environments that they're in," said Gino Anselmo, Togo Prison Warden.

Rep. Ecklund added community outreach like the rallies held over the summer helped make a difference.

"A lot of us weighed, we thought that the Department of Corrections to immediately come out with we're having troubles with our budget and all that to try and save a little bit of money by cutting a facility made no sense," he said.

But now, a new proposed bill is hoping to expand the Togo facility with a partnership with the Bois Forte Reservation.

"They're looking for some way to work with housing prisoners from the reservation, and also maybe for some rehab."

Ecklund said the bill would help both the reservation, the DOC, and retain jobs.

"It would cause people to move out, we don't have the advantage in rural Minnesota that people can jump to another job like they do in the more suburban areas."

Ecklund said a budget for the pilot project is yet to be determined.

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Emma Quinn

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